Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Obedience School" by John Ashbery

Let us leave the obedience school.
The door is open. Outside the sun is shining.
Why do you hesitate? Why do you hold back?

If there were some warts on the obedience school
we should have known about it before this.
You don't learn the cancan at obedience school.

Yup. But the parkway night is festering.
Besides, there are so many trained-dog acts now
nobody wants any competition.

That's why I bought Flossie the ticket
back to Puyallup. Her ladies-in-waiting
were flouting the scent of incense smoldering;

her high heels provoked 'zounds!' of acclaim
from the wrong kind of gent-customer
we want no truck with.

And when the old school shudders
in a sudden ray of March sun,
accusers and behoovers alike will be believed;

behemoths and mammoths struggle and give up
in the aquarium dawn. Then a run on the feedstores
ensues. Causes are given up for lost. The queen's pony

capers on its hind legs, quite as if narcissism
were going out of style. Poor children! Why, it broke their heart,
but Dad's with them now. Dad can conquer this thing.

Can You Hear, Bird (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 1995, p. 80.